For a 2nd act as a pro, ex-Brave Burkett bowls
You may remember John Burkett as the journeyman right-handed pitcher who surprisingly made the 2001 National League All-Star team while with the Braves.
Now, a decade after he retired from major league baseball and living in Texas, and despite a knee injury sustained while skiing two years ago, Burkett, 49, is aiming for a bowling career on the 50-plus circuit and will continue to knock some rust off beginning Monday in Shawnee, Okla., in the PBA Wolf Open. The event is the first leg of Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort PBA Summer Swing series.
He spoke to the PBA’s Bill Vint about his goals:
- “When my 49th birthday came along, I started thinking about the PBA50 Tour, so I got my (PBA) card. The Summer Swing came along, I live in Fort Worth, which is only three hours away, and things just fell into place, so it was a no-brainer for me to enter.”
- “I wanted to be a professional bowler before I ever took up baseball. Bowling was my favorite sport, for sure.”
- “A lot of these guys (bowling in the Summer Swing) don’t understand that I’m kind of in awe of them. Guys like Pete Weber and Norm Duke and Parker Bohn and Walter Ray Williams were my bowling heroes when I was younger. I’ve never missed a PBA show on TV since I was six or seven.”
- “Even when I went to spring training, I had my VCR in the car so I could tape shows and I had two bowling balls in the front seat of my car. I drove to spring training one time and my wife – my girlfriend then – had make the trip from Pennsylvania to Arizona with her feet on the balls. And during spring training, I’d find some little local tournament with a $50 first prize for whatever. I couldn’t wait for our workouts to be over to I could go bowl.”
- “I’ve been a PBA fan my whole life. I’m pretty much the same age as these guys, but to be able to hang out with the guys I followed all those years? Absolutely that’s what I want to do. Ultimately the goal would be to win one of those events. I’m not sure I have a chance, but I’m not afraid to put in the work, and I like the challenge.”
- “Even now, people ask if I’m going to get back into baseball, coaching or something, but I say, no I’m doing this. I work; I have some other businesses I do, but now I have time to do what I want, and I have always wanted to bowl. I have three kids who are ready for college, but now I have time to play the sport I dreamed of as a kid, and play at a high level. I don’t care much for league bowling. I want this kind of challenge. Every time I come out here I’m nervous, so I want to get to the point where I can bowl on a fairly consistent basis so I can get over that.”
- “I’ve gotten rusty. I blew my right knee out skiing two years ago, and it’s just getting back to normal. I’m bowling about 30 games in league and I bowl the USBC Open Championships. I’ll do these (Summer Swing) events and I’m looking at bowling in the PBA World Series in Las Vegas this fall.”
Burkett pitched for the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers, Braves and Boston Red Sox during a 16-year career that began in 1987 and ended with his retirement in 2003 at age 38. He posted a 166-136 record with 1,766 career strikeouts.